SACRAMENT MEETING CHRISTMAS PROGRAM
STERLING PARK WARD
ASHBURN, VA STAKE
I like to play Scrabble with my family. But, they don't always like to play with me. My older sons, Stan and Ryan, are quite good at Scrabble. Janet believes I play too hard trying to keep up with my boys. My "large" vocabulary and "creative" spellings gives rise to some "discussions" about the admissibility of a particular word. We then turn to an authoritative source--the dictionary Janet had in college. When Janet went to college, she took her mother's dictionary. I believe it was the dictionary her mother used when her mother went to college. This dictionary was published in 1951--51 years ago. It is a great dictionary. It got my mother-in-law and my wife through college. The problem is that it just doesn't have good Scrabble words like 'cyberspace' or 'megabyte.'
So, in order to keep the peace, I bought a new dictionary with a gift certificate my son had given me. I wanted the Oxford English Dictionary, but I could really only afford a single-volume dictionary. But, I needed one with lots of words. Most good college dictionaries have between 200,000 and 300,00 entries. I found an Oxford dictionary: The Oxford American College Dictionary. It has over 400,000 entries. It not only has the word 'cyberspace' but also 'cyberphobia' and even 'cyborg.' It not only has 'megabyte,' it also has 'megabuck' and 'megamouth.'
Peace has been restored to the Andrus Scrabble game.
Now that I have my Oxford American College Dictionary, I decided to look up the word 'peace' in preparation for this talk The word 'peace' has essentially five meanings. They are:
In reference to peace, Isaiah (chapter 9, verse 6) refers to the Savior when he proclaims:
In what sense is Jesus the Prince of Peace?
First, in Mark 4:36-41 we read that He is the Prince of Peace over the environment.:
Second, in Isaiah 2:2-4 we learn that He is the Prince of Peace over the nations of the earth.
Third, in Fourth Nephi chapter 1:1-3, 15 we understand that he is the Prince of Peace over society.
Fourth, during the last supper Jesus explains to his disciples how He is the Prince of Peace over interpersonal relations. We read in John 13:34-15:
Fifth, he is our personal Prince of Peace through the atonement. Alma the Younger expresses this as well as anyone in Alma 36:17-21
III. DOERS OF THE WORD
Because Jesus is our personal and collective Prince of Peace, we love to sing Christmas hymns of praise. We love Handel's Messiah, because Jesus is our personal Messiah. When we sing Christmas hymns of praise or stand and sing Handel's Hallelujah Chorus I am convinced Heavenly Father and Jesus receive our gifts of praise with the love we intend. We feel the Spirit opening a conduit to Heaven as we sing. We can feel the love flow back and forth.
Listening to or singing Christmas songs is much the same as listening to or speaking the words of the true gospel. Let me paraphrase James 1:22. Let us be doers of the word, not just singers only. It is more meaningful to walk the praise walk, not just sing the praise song. The two most important gifts we can give to Christ at Christmas time are 1) a repentant soul, and 2) helping other people.
Brothers and sisters, in my new calling as Bishop, I am witness both to many acts of Christian service and to honest repentance. This ward has a special spirit because of all of you who are both doers of the word and singers of the song. As I look at this congregation and see the righteous lives represented here I know these Christmas hymns are not sung in vain. As Christ said to Emma Smith in DC 25:12
The hymns sung today by this choir and congregation are indeed a fit praise to the Prince of Peace at this Christmas time.
IV. ALL YEAR
One of the speakers last week quoted President Hinckley as saying, "Without Easter, there is no Christmas." It is wonderful that we can celebrate and worship Christ on two major holidays--one in the winter and one in the spring. I wish we had a holiday in the late summer to celebrate and worship Christ. It kind of makes me want to adopt Rosh Hashanah--the Jewish Day of Atonement--as a holiday we celebrate. It would round out the year, nicely.
But you know what? We can celebrate Christmas, and Easter, (and Rosh Hashanah) all year long. We can do this by partaking of the sacrament. When we worthily partake of the sacrament we celebrate and worship our personal Prince of Peace. When I take the Sacrament on Sunday I often reflect on how the atonement has changed my life over the years. I think about how much better off I am, how much happier I am, and how much at peace I am. The blessings of the atonement in my life make me feel much like how Joseph Smith must have felt when he penned these word of praise to the Prince of Peace in DC 128:23:
In conclusion, I testify that Jesus is the Prince of Peace. He is the Savior of the world. He is the Messiah and He is the Christ. May His Peace rest upon you throughout the entire year.
In the sacred name of Jesus Christ. Amen.